In 1978, John Mackey and his girlfriend used $45,000 in seed money to start “Safer Way,” a natural foods store in Austin, Texas, that was supposed to offer shoppers an alternative to “evil” profit-seeking corporations. But soon the long-haired 25-year-old found himself lumped in with the people he was supposed to be fighting. His customers complained that his prices were too high. His workers thought they weren’t being paid enough. Austin nonprofits said he should give them more money. (Read more…) And government regulators were slapping him with fees, fines, and taxes. He lost more than half of his investment before renaming the store Whole Foods and reconsiderng his take on corporate America. “My worldview underwent a massive shift,” he writes in Conscious Capitalism, a new book about his business philosophy that Mackey coauthored with Raj Sisodia, cofounder of the nonprofit Conscious Capitalism, Inc. “I had become a businessperson and a capitalist, and I had discovered that business and capitalism, while not perfect, were both fundamentally good and ethical.” (A book review is forthcoming.)
Mackey responded via email to my questions, dishing on Obamacare, the relevance of labor unions, and the overheated rhetoric concerning climate changeâ€”which is, after all “perfectly natural.”
Mother Jones: You run Whole Foods Market as a liberal mightâ€”with generous wages and worker benefits and progressive environmental policies. Yet when it comes to politics, you are essentially a libertarian.
John Mackey: I reject the premise that liberal and libertarian values are necessarily in conflict. In fact, I often self-identify as a “classical liberal.” I am pro-choice, favor legalizing gay marriages, protecting our environment, enforcing strict animal welfare protection laws (I’ve been an ethical vegan for 10 years), marijuana legalization, having a welfare safety net for our poorest or disabled citizens, and a radically reduced defense budget and military presence around the world. However, I’m also a conscious capitalistâ€”I believe economic freedom and entrepreneurship are the best ways to end poverty, increase prosperity, and evolve humanity upward. I believe that all forms of socialism have been proven over time to result in a loss of both economic and civil liberties, with increasing poverty. The truth is that I don’t fit into a simple ideological box. I read widely on issues, try to think carefully about them, and then I make up my own mind.
[VIA MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones]